GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Asian carp have made headlines across the Midwest for more than a decade — a looming threat that could cripple the Great Lakes ecosystem. Scientists and engineers have been able to hold off the invasive fish and now they are taking a new step in the fight — a new name.
This week, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources plans to introduce a new name for the fish that they hope will sound more appetizing and encourage people to target the fish for consumption.
“We’re trying to make the name more attractive, so people will be more inclined to purchase them and have them for table fare, have them for dinner,” John Rogner, the assistant director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, told WTTW-TV in Chicago. Dirk Fucik, who owns a gourmet fish shop in Chicago, told WTTW that Asian carp — when prepared properly — is quite delicious and healthy.
“It’s healthier than tilapia. Tilapia is omega-6 instead of omega-3, so you get a lot fewer benefits of health from tilapia,” Fucik told WTTW. For the typical restaurant, carp is considered bottom of the barrel. Carp are bottom feeders with a notably muddy taste. But Asian carp are different. They feed on plankton. Still, the moniker is a natural turn-off.
Fucik didn’t give any specifics but has a basic idea for the new name. “(Something) simple, short and not carp,” he told WTTW.
The discussion around a name change is nothing new. In 2014, Minnesota’s state legislature approved a motion to have state agencies refer to the name as the “invasive carp.” In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes, more agencies worked on a name change. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service changed the name last year.
“We wanted to move away from any terms that cast Asian culture and people in a negative light,” Charlie Wooley, Director of the USFWS Great Lakes Region, told The Associated Press.
Asian carp is a bit of a misnomer. It’s actually a group of fish: Bighead, silver, grass and black carp. The fish is from Asia, brought to the U.S. more than 50 years ago to try to clear up algae and weeds. However, the fish expanded and migrated up the Mississippi River, threatening to drown out other fish species.
Bighead and silver carp eat a ton of plankton and black carp eat mussels and snails, leaving little for other fish to survive. Grass carp eat wetland plants that can make an outsized impact on the ecosystem. Rebranding has worked for certain federal agencies. The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has two notable successes. Have you ever had "Chilean sea bass?" Would you have tried it by its old name, “Patagonian toothfish?”
What about “slimehead?” It’s certainly an off-putting name, but in the 1970s, the agency changed the name to “orange roughy” and it became a hot commodity. The announcement in Illinois is set for Wednesday.